Re “The Exodus Obama Forgot to Mention,” by André Aciman (Op-Ed, June 9):
Mr. Aciman hits the nail on the head. President Obama, in his comprehensive speech in Cairo, did not say anything about the estimated 800,000 Jews who were forced to leave Arab countries for refuge in Israel and other lands that would welcome them.
I, too, find it strange that our president mentioned Arab refugees without acknowledging the fact that Jews throughout the Arab world have been victims of anti-Semitism since long before Israel became a state in 1948.
The president and his advisers need to understand that to be an honest broker in forging peace between Israel and the Palestinians, one has to be honest in reminding everyone of historical fact.
(Rabbi) Reuven H. Taff
Sacramento, June 9, 2009
It is tragic that Jews were forced out of Egypt so many years ago. André Aciman, however, does not mention that the Palestinians were forced out of what had been their lands and homes in Palestine.
It is interesting that Mr. Aciman says Jews had lived peacefully and were integrated into Egyptian society until they were forced out about 50 years ago. It is obvious that there was a direct connection to what was happening in Palestine/Israel, with the great catastrophe being endured by the Palestinians who had been forced from their homes.
This is not to say that the treatment of the Jews in Egypt was justified; two wrongs do not make a right. But in the interest of accurate reporting and to better understand the whole situation, it is essential to include all of the relevant facts.
Berkeley, Calif., June 9, 2009
André Aciman’s article reminded us of what happened in Libya, where we were born. Most of the Jews of Libya fled after post-World War II Arab pogroms; those who remained were forced to leave in 1967.
Personal property was left behind and expropriated, but so, too, was communal property. One of the telling statements we heard when conducting oral histories was, “I would never go back ... Qaddafi destroyed the cemeteries.”
Most of these Jews found refuge in Israel, where they arrived penniless. Our grandfather, a successful merchant in Libya, struggled in 1949 to find work delivering milk. The children of the Jews of Libya have become functioning members of Israeli society and long ago discarded the role of “refugee.” One cannot forget that nearly half the population of Israel is made up of refugees from Arab countries and their descendants.
Vivienne Roumani-Denn Maurice Roumani
New York, June 9, 2009
The writers are, respectively, director of the film “The Last Jews of Libya” and author of “The Jews of Libya.”
Thank you for this moving article about the Jews in Egypt. There are two factors that should also be considered. Israel always welcomed Jewish refugees into its society. In stark contrast, Palestinians have been kept in refugee camps throughout the Arab world, pawns in the long battle with Israel.
Second, the fleeing and expulsion of Jews from Arab lands after 1948, and the destruction of what had been vibrant Jewish communities, are a cultural loss in much of the Arab world that will never be rectified, even in my mother’s native Morocco, which had always had good relations between Jews and Muslims.
Malden, Mass., June 9, 2009
As an Armenian-American whose parents were born in Egypt, I was intrigued by this commentary on President Obama’s oversight on the plight of Jews forced from Arab lands because of widespread nationalism. However, Jews were not the only victims. Vibrant Christian communities, including Armenians and Greeks, also suffered from discrimination in Arab countries, leading many to flee.
A paucity of cultural diversity has arguably contributed to the Arab radicalism seen today and is a stark reminder of what happens to society when divergent voices are silenced and opinions ignored.
San Ramon, Calif., June 9, 2009
Read all letters
Update: Egyptian-born Viviane Levy has sent Andre Aciman' s article to President Obama, with a copy to Secretary of State Hilary Clinton.
An excellent discussion of the issues raised by Andre Aciman's piece is now taking place on the excellent blog Harry's Place.